I recently mentioned in passing to a new colleague that I am a walking X-Men encyclopedia, and he replied he had some valuable X-Men comics. “Maybe a #1?” he said.
I was like, “uh, sure, great.” He’s younger than me, so I thought he might be referring to the 90s relaunch with Jim Lee, copies of which are valued in the low triple-digits … of cents.
Lo and behold, today he walks in with a pristine copy of Giant-Sized X-Men from 1974. It’s just in a normal, cheap mylar bag. Perfectly square spine with a tiny nick on the bottom corner and a white cover. He says, “don’t you want to flip through it?” I was like, “Don’t let me touch that! My hands are not clean enough! I am not qualified to handle a book that valuable!”
Eventually, I gingerly paged through. The pages were yellowed, but with crystal clear colors. I was transfixed by the separation of the yellow of Cyclops’s visor against the blue of his costume. It was beautiful. My hands were shaking a little bit as I put it back in the bag.
I was afraid to sit and read it despite his invitation to do so. I would never read it multiple times! I would never leave it lying open as I recapped it for a message board post or blog. My obsession with it was as an artifact, not a story-delivery-mechanism.
It made me marvel about the state of collected editions, and about this community. When I started collecting almost 25 years ago, I never had any hope of reading those early Uncanny X-Men issues. They were completely inaccessible. I had my Milestone reprint of Giant-Sized X-Men and my prized possessions – a middle-grade set of the original Dark Phoenix Saga my father bought for me at a comic convention. The reprints in “Classic X-Men” aside, I had no hope of reading UXM #94 or #108 or any of those other landmark early Claremont issues.
Yet, here we are today, gamely reading not only the first issues of our storied favorites, but the second, fifth, thirteenth, and twenty-ninth issues. We’re sampling runs of comics that aren’t our favorites in trade or hardcover for the price of one key back issue. Sure, we might wish for them in a different format or have to hunt them across the internet, but today our $100 buys us 30 or more issues of those classic comics, when even at my first convention it might not have yielded a single, low-grade copy of Giant-Size X-Men. And, a new generation of readers has unlimited access to many of these classics on Marvel’s app!
This is certainly the golden age not for comic book collectors but for readers, and I’m very happy to be here for it.
Originally published at the Comic Book Resources forum.